- Shaun Carney. 2005 stats: 95-148, 1393 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs. Returning Starter.
Shaun Carney will enter his third year starting for the Falcons and the junior has the talent to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference. While most Air Force quarterbacks of late have been better runners than passers, Carney is in the mold of a passing quarterback; while he did gain 720 yards on the ground and score 11 touchdowns, his strength is still throwing the ball. Despite a limited number of passing attempts, Carney completed an impressive 64.1% of his throws. However, his 7/7 TD/INT ratio isn't exactly the greatest and highlights that perhaps his decision-making needs some work. Depth: Jim Ollis switched from halfback and is the likely choice to backup Carney. Being a former running back, Otis is solid running the ball, but will need to improve his passing skills if he wants to be effective at the quarterback spot.
BACK - Jacobe Kendrick. 2005 stats:
166 attempts, 532 yards, 6 TDs. Returning starter.
The Air Force wishbone attack produces plenty of yards on the ground, yet no player, save QB Shaun Carney, produced more yards than fullback Jacobe Kendrick. At 6'0" 230 pounds, Kendrick has good size and quick feet, although injuries did keep him on the sidelines for a few games last year. If he can stay on the field, he's a very dependable fullback with the speed of a halfback. Depth: Also returning to join Kendrick in the Air Force backfield are Chad Hall and Justin Handely. Both are speedy, but both also check in around 5-8 180 pounds. Still, they both have plenty of experience and Hall is Air Force's leading returning receiver. Ryan Williams is the backup fullback to Kendrick and actually was third in the team in rushing attempts last year.
Victor Thompson. 6 receptions, 59 yards, 1 TD. New starter.
Like Navy, the Falcon receivers are used more often for their blocking skills. Still, there are occasions when Air Force will throw the ball and Victor Thompson (left) is the best returning wide receiver on the team. The top two targets from last year are gone so Victor will need to step up his game in order to keep the threat of the pass alive. Depth: Mark Root is a bit taller than Victor, but hasn't caught a pass yet so his contributions in that area are still largely unknown. Sophomore Mike Moffett adds a bit more depth.
TE - Travis Dekker. Injured last year. New starter.
Travis Dekker missed all of last year due to injury but came out of spring practice as the starting tight end. His main contribution will be as a blocker and he isn't likely to be much of a threat in the passing game. Depth: Like Dekker, Chris Evans is a blocking tight end that will be used more to protect the quarterback and open lanes for running backs than running against linebackers and safeties in the secondary.
LT - Robert Kraay. Returning starter.
LG - Tyler Dohallow. Returning starter.
C - Stuart Perlow. New starter.
RG - Curtis Grantham. Returning starter.
RT - Blaine Guenther. New starter.
As with most teams, the most experienced lineman is at left tackle. Senior Robert Kraay is a very good pass blocker and hasn't missed a start at left tackle in the past two years. Curtis Grantham is solid as a run blocker and the only other lineman who has more than 5 career starts as Tyler Dohallow didn't crack the starting lineup until midway through last season. Blaine Guenther looks to have the early lead at the right tackle spot after being a backup at center last year. Depth: If Guenther loses his starting job, it will be to junior Ryan Zeman who is athletic, but undersized at 265 pounds. Caleb Morris started 6 games in 2004 before missing all of 2005 due to injury. He'll provide depth at the left guard position.
Jake Paulson. New starter.
Gilberto Perez. 33 tackles, 1 sack, 9.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.
Grant Thomas. 17, 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.
Josh Clayton. 14 tackles, 3 TFL. New starter.
The inexperienced Falcon line will look to veteran Gilberto Perez for leadership. A 1st team preseason all-conference pick, Perez will look to duplicate his production last year. Grant Thomas filled in for Perez for the final two games when Gilberto was injured and now has a starting spot next to him. He's a decent run-stopper and should benefit from the double-teams on Perez. At end, John Clayton and Jake Paulson will have to quickly prove they are capable defensive ends if they want to reverse last season's 98th overall ranking for the defense. Depth: Kevin Quinn will rotate with Grant Thomas at tackle, but at 245 pounds, he's also can play end. Tight end turned defensive tackle Chris Monson is even lighter at 240 pounds, which give the Falcons not much size behind their starters.
ILB - Joey Keller. 22 tackles, 1.5 TFL. New starter.
ILB - Drew Fowler. 77 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL. Returning starter.
Air Force runs a 4-2-5 scheme usually where only two players are technically classified as linebackers. For now I'll leave the hybrid outside linebacker/safety positions for the secondary post. Drew Fowler (right, tackling) is the man in the middle as he was 2nd in the team in tackles last year with 77 despite only starting 9 of the 11 games. Joey Keller was a backup last year and is line for a starting spot, but was injured for some of fall camp. Depth: If Keller isn't a starter by the ND game, Jared Baxely might be the man in the middle. The fastest Falcon linebacker, Baxley is inexperienced but Air Force might need his speed. Austin Randle is another backup looking for playing time on the Falcon defense.
CB - Garret Rybak. 6 tackles. New starter.
CB - Chris Sutton. 47 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 9 PBU. Returning starter.
FS - Bobby Giannini. 92 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 2 FF. Returning starter.
FALCON - John Rabold. 36 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL. New starter.
FALCON - Julian Madrid. 27 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.
Bobby Giannini (right) is the major, and really only, star of this Falcon defense. The returning team leader in tackler, Giannini is a hard hitter and one of the best safeties in the Mountain West conference. The other returning starter, cornerback Chris Sutton was moderately productive last year as a starter and should be even better this year due to the additional experience. Joining Sutton at the cornerback position is Garrett Rybak. He took the starting job with a solid spring practice campaign, but will need to be ready for a lot of attention as opposing quarterbacks test him early and often. Falcon backs John Rabold and Julian Madrid are both new to the starting lineup too and will need to work hard if Air Force wants to improve it's 94th ranked pass defense. Depth: Carson Bird has some experience and is a decent backup at the falcon position. He played corner last year so he can also help out there. Nathan Smith is perhaps the team's fastest corner and will back up Rybak to start the season. If Rybak falters, Smith could step into the starting role.